VERNON CITY HALL COMPLEX: HOUSE(S) FOR THE MAYOR Subtext: “As Normal as Possible” (A-Nap)
Jimenez Lai, Lecturer, UCLA Architecture and Urban Design
Site: Vernon, CA. is a city with a physical size of 5.157 mi. However, it is a city that only hosts a population of 112 residents as of 2010. Included within this small population are the police department, fire department, city council, the mayor, and the rest of the governing body of Vernon, CA. Despite the fact that over 1800 businesses operate during the day and around 50,000 people commute to work, Vernon is almost entirely zoned industrial and remained this way over the decades. It is also the only incorporated city in the United States without a park. The tagline on the Vernon City website clearly states: Vernon Means Business.
Nearly all of Vernon’s residents live on the corner of Santa Fe and E. Vernon, with one school, one church, and some other single-serving amenities that support this small population. The proposal for this studio is to condense all combined footprint of current government and residential functions into at least one quarter of its current density, and allow a large setback to become a park. The condensed multi-function building will have an FAR of at least 4.0.
The Phalanstère, an idea initially written by Charles Fourier in the 19th Century, was a proposal for a fictional city with 500-2000 people living inside of one architecture. Many architects have taken on this idea of “city within building” and produced projects with this in mind, including Unite d’Habitation, Marina City, or the Hancock Building in Chicago. This multi-functional Frankensteined building will house all citizens of Vernon inside one building. Students will work with groups of two or three, and form a total of nine groups.
SUBTEXT: “AS NORMAL AS POSSIBLE” (A-NAP) What does it mean for something to be normal? Conversely, what defines madness? Without standards that allow a measure of normalcy, it is nearly impossible to define something as be- ing out of place. “Normal” is a difficult moving target - something typologically normal in the 1920s would not be normal in 1980. What is normal in 1980 in Los Angeles also may not be so normal in Tokyo 1980. Normalcy is a complex agreement amongst a large number of people, the same way that grammar and cadence are specific to the time and space they live in. A different way of considering the topic of normalcy is the idea of context - in some ways, context may not be only physical, but cultural.